Working graveyard shift

By Candice Wojnarowski
February 26, 2009

If this was the 19th century, eight hours of my day would be spent in a cemetery, listening for those who had been mistakenly buried alive.

For those of us who report to work long after everyone is asleep, the graveyard shift has not changed all that much in the past 200 years; for the most part, it is still the quietest, loneliest shift.

There are many advantages and disadvantages that come with working overnight. It is important to consider each of these before accepting a third-shift position.

The obvious advantage is that you have the whole day to yourself, a very appealing aspect of working overnight. Most companies also tend to pay more for overnight workers since it is not a popular shift. Rules and regulations are often more relaxed for third-shift employees due to the “off-hours” atmosphere.

There are numerous drawbacks associated with this schedule too including hours of alone time, sleep deprivation and bouts of depression. The only way to survive the difficult transition from diurnal to nocturnal is to develop effective time management, and establishing a sleep schedule.

Depending on your exact position and profession, privileges and responsibilities may vary accordingly. For example, a security guard working the third shift would have much less free time than a retail associate.

I have worked three third-shift jobs in my lifetime, and each one, though drastically different, has consisted of the same pros and cons.

For example, working third shift retail allowed for me to listen to my iPod for eight hours while stocking shelves and completing product movements. There was no customer interaction, and therefore no uniform requirement.

As a valet manager at Embassy Suites in Center City, I was busy parking cars and verifying ticket information for about three hours. The remaining five hours were more or less mine to study, do homework, read or even just sit and relax.

My current position, a concierge at a condominium, requires a bit more vigilance than I was used to. It is a very high-class building in an upscale part of the city, but there are still issues with crime.

I am responsible for registering all visitors, monitoring security cameras, watching resident cars and auditing keys. I do, however, have access to the Internet for the majority of the night, and am encouraged to study and do homework at the desk.

From personal experience, I have found that the advantages of this shift outweigh the disadvantages. I have weekends off, solid hours to devote to homework, a quiet working environment and the ability to take a varied class schedule.

I still struggle with balance and time management. Deadlines and group work prove to be difficult because I am literally operating on an opposite schedule from most of the people I know. It is easy to get lonely and depressed due to the quiet darkness that comes with the graveyard shift.

My best advice for anyone considering a third- shift position is to talk to your friends about it in detail. This will take a toll on your social life, and they should understand what this means before you make the switch. Establish a sleeping schedule before you start; either plan to sleep when you get out of work, or before you go in, but set aside a few solid hours.

And finally, practice time management, especially with school work. Projects and tests won’t disappear just because you are operating on a different schedule.

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Candice Wojnarowski

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